My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Last Good Girl by Allison Leotta
Allison Leotta has received high praise and critical notice for her four previous Anna Curtis novels. With The Last Good Girl, Leotta continues to shine, examining a complex social and legal issue with compelling storytelling.
In The Last Good Girl, Leotta examines campus rape, at Tower University, an esteemed university near Detroit, Michigan.
Emily Shapiro, a freshman student at Tower, disappears after leaving a bar near campus. Dylan Highsmith, president of the Beta Psi fraternity chapter, was the last person seen with Emily. Emily had accused Dylan approximately six months earlier of drugging and raping her at a campus party. However, Dylan’s wealthy and powerful family had used their resources to blunt any hope that Emily had of receiving the justice she sought.
Anna, normally a Federal prosecutor operating out of Washington, D.C., is in Michigan, having helped her sister, Jody, out of a legal issue, and finding a new love interest, Cooper Bolden.
Anna is drafted by her boss, her prior love interest, as a special prosecutor to oversee the Shapiro investigation with the FBI as a hate crime. Beta Psi has a reputation on campus as “the rape factory”, and with Highsmith as their leader, it’s no surprise when the investigation leads Anna to their door.
Leotta’s experience as a federal prosecutor is apparent. She unfolds her story, laying out the environment ripe for campus rape and the complexities of prosecuting cases. Late reporting, reluctant witnesses, rampant alcohol usage, and rape shaming make cases hard to make and harder to prosecute. When campus administrators are determined to impede progress, it makes it nearly impossible to succeed.
But Leotta’s story is hardly a recitation of prosecutorial potholes. She writes a tight, personal story of an Anna dealing with her life and her work in a direct uncomplicated manner removed from melodrama. Anna is a sympathetic character with a backbone of steel and one you want to root for.
The investigation’s procedural elements are well-presented, tightly structured, allowing for some surprise elements that fit nicely with the facts, and leading to a satisfying resolution. The Last Good Girl is a solid story, nicely told.
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